Saturday, May 18, 2013

**REVIEW** The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

So much more than a pretty cover.  The Brides of Rollrock Island is a beautiful, 
dark and wonderfully written tale.

On remote Rollrock Island, men make their living--and fetch their wives--from the sea.

The Witch Misskaella knows how to find the girl at the heart of a seal. She'll coax a beauty from the beast for any man, for a price. And what man wouldn't want a sea-wife, to and to hold, and to keep by his side forever?

But though he may tell himself that he is the master, one look in his new bride's eyes will transform him just as much as it changes her. Both will be ensnared--and the witch will look on, laughing.

In this magical, seaswept novel, Margo Lanagan tells an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also of unspoken love.

Release Date:  September 11, 2012
Published By:  Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Review Copy: Hardcover, 305 pages
*Provided by Random House Canada


  I was initially attracted to the cover and the Selkie lore of this one.  I must say that both the description and the cover itself did not fully prepare me for what was to come.  This tale is intricately woven and took me a bit to figure out.  It is difficult to fully describe the experience of this one without giving too much away or throwing you off.  This is the type of read that you need to take a little slower to fully develop and appreciate and that isn't easy for the girl that frequently tears through a book a day.

  Lanagan has without a doubt created some of the most mesmerizing brides I could have ever imagined, it was clear from the start why the men were so easily besotted  with them.  Beautiful women that step forth and only know them and rely on them for everything.  Though nothing could fully replace the sea in their heart and soul.  The men in return had women that were ethereal and bound to them.  It's hard to see the love in this but I genuinely think the men believed that they cold make their wives happy.  The saying "If you love something set it free, it will come back if it was meant to be," was beyond their comprehension because they could just not see their  lives without them.

  Be warned that it takes more than one chapter to become invested in this one.  Each chapter is told by a different character and takes some getting used to.  I felt utterly lost in  the first chapter and part of the second but I stuck with it simply because I wanted to understand, wanted to know the truth of what was going on.  Page 61 marked my understanding point.  This will not be for every person but once you are invested the writing and the beautiful dark tale will take you away.  I could see the haunted girls faces, their beauty as they stepped out of one form and became another.  The way in which the lives on the island were changed and in how the town was looked upon all flowed into realizations that came to me through understanding the circumstances that started everything.

  Misskaella is really the start of everything and the chapter that stood out from the others.  She was painstakingly different as a child and treated as such by the entire island and as any person knows this can change a person.  You don't grow up being glared at and treated differently by everyone including your family and just walk away from that.  You are changed and when Misskaella figures out what exactly makes her different she figures out how to repay the wrongs that were done to her.  Instead of exploding she gets her revenge slowly and  meticulously, while gaining everything that she never would have been able to have if it weren't for her talent.  Though everything takes time and most don't see how her plan works it is clear that she got the revenge she had hoped for.

  This is a tale of so many things.  An awkward girl that grows into what can only be described as a vengeful witch, an island of men that have no comprehension of what they are doing, sons that don't know or understand what makes them different and the wives that love their families yet pine for the sea that is their home.  It all ends in a crash and you feel almost a sense of loss and freedom with the characters, yet there is almost an understanding  that sets you free as well.  I can't say that I understood everything and I think in the future I will revisit this one to full absorb it and relish in the beauty and darkness.  As I said this may not be for everyone but if yo can give it a chance and stick with it you will be pulled in by the wondrous strange and emerge with an understanding.

"Plenty say it never happened at all, girls coming out of seals," said Lorel.

"Well how could it?" said Tatty.  "It would be like a cat birthing a dog, or a horse throwing a goat."

"There's no birthing at all," said Ann Jelly.  "It is the same creature.  Only its skin comes off and the girl is within."

They did not see, then, the sting of Grassy's insult, or the worse shame of the truth in Tatty's words, and the flush both sent across my face.  The crossed bands might protect me from seal-enchantment, but they left me as vulnerable to my sisters' barbs as I had ever been.
 Any man seeing this maiden's lips would want to lay kisses on them; he would want to roll in the cushions of those lips, swim the depths of those eyes, run his hands down the long foreign lengths of this girl.  Oh, I thought, women of Rollrock, you are nothing now.
And now I saw a seal-girls face, straight on and lamplit, for the first time.  Not quite human, she was all the more beautiful for that.  Her dark features sat in the smooth skin like a puzzle of stones and shells; I wanted to look and look until I had solved it.


  1. This sounds like a complex, interesting story. I am okay with a book starting off a little bit slow so long as it picks up and becomes a great story!

  2. Lanagan has been getting some justified nods from bookish friends lately. I haven't read my copy yet but I'm now more than interested. Great review, Tiff.

  3. I've never heard of this book! The cover AND synopsis are so haunting. I love the third quote you chose! :D

    Glad you enjoyed this one!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  4. Cool review! I have never heard of this book. The cover is really pretty. I like the story line od sea wives and love. <3

  5. I think you're definitely right that this one is not for everyone. While I appreciated the whole atmosphere of it, I just could not get into the story. Maybe because of the sheer number of p.o.v changes... I don't know. I'm glad you enjoyed it more than I did, at least!

  6. I will admit, this sounds like quite the confusing read, but on the other hand a good one! Some of the quotes make it sound a bit poetic. Great Review!!!

  7. The cover of this one absolutely draws me in. I haven't read it due to the whole mermaid story troubles that I have had. But this is Selkie's so maybe this one will work for me. Thanks for the review!


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